House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I think “equality” and “equity” are two very important words. Every indigenous community will be doing things a little differently. Every one will have specific needs. People who live up north have different needs from those who live near urban centres.

Equity is a very important ideal. It is one where we ensure that people have the full potential to be successful in life. How to achieve that is a very good question. We have a number of cases that have gone before tribunals, which have established that indigenous child welfare should be funded at an equitable and equal level with all Canadians, that they should receive equal funding no matter where they are. How that is administered is a different thing. It is based on culture and needs within local communities.

If a government decides not to fund this legislation in the future, I suspect it will end up before the courts. I suspect that government will lose again and again. I am sure that no government wants to be on the wrong side of history, fighting children, fighting against children. It is certainly nothing that people on any side in this House want to be doing.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, that is an incredible offer. Obviously, I would love to see that happen. It is time to move this forward and on to the Senate, so that it has time to finish this work. Time is running short. It is time to give indigenous peoples the opportunity to make their own decisions.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

[Member spoke in Cree]

Mr. Speaker, I am from Red Pheasant First Nation, which is a Cree community in Saskatchewan, and I am very proud of that.

I remember when I first rose in the House on December 8, 2015, for my maiden speech. I talked about child and family services because it was such an important issue to the people of Manitoba and especially the people of Winnipeg Centre. They were so upset with what was occurring in our province and in our city.

Imagine if 90,000 children in Quebec or 130,000 children in Ontario had been placed in foster care. There would have been an uprising and rioting in the streets. It would have been a huge deal if it had happened in other provinces.

This bill is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation that I believe we are going to pass, not only because it is about children and the best interests of children but also because it is about jurisdiction and giving indigenous communities control. It is important for a number of reasons. One is repairing our colonial past of residential schools, when we took away children and forcibly assimilated them into the Canadian body politic, and when we took away their languages.

I said in my maiden speech, “I think of our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, God bless his soul, who imprisoned indigenous peoples, stole our children, and stole our languages.” I was talking about the history of this nation. That history of residential schools continued on into the 1960s, when instead of placing kids in large institutions around the country far from major urban centres, we placed them in adoption centres and sent them around the world. I meet young men and women my age who have come home to Canada who were adopted out into France or the United States. This was often called the sixties scoop.

We still have foster families today, and in Manitoba there are 11,000 kids in care, which is where the number of 90,000 comes from. If we had the same number of kids in care today as there are in Manitoba, per capita there would be 90,000 in Quebec and 130,000 in Ontario.

The child welfare system has a significant impact on real people. For example, let us look at Dwayne Gladu, who is from my riding, and his daughter Lisa.

Dwayne was placed in a foster family as a child. So was his daughter, but his daughter was placed in a foster family because her father had a mark in his file that said that he had been in foster care, which meant that he was not going to be a good parent. He was indigenous, so he was going to have problems, even though Dwayne is a man who follows what we call the “red road”. He is a good man, whom I have met many times on the powwow trail. While he may be poor, by nature he is a very good and kind person.

Lisa, Dwayne's daughter, also had a birth alert against her, and when she gave birth only a few years ago, her child was seized immediately, without giving her the opportunity of proving that she would be a good parent. She fell into despair. She no longer had access to her child. She had to prove that she would be a good parent and take parenting classes when no one else had to do that. Her only crime was having been in a foster family herself.

In her despair, she became depressed. She fell in with the wrong crowd because she was poor and living in downtown Winnipeg. She started using drugs, and eventually she died from an overdose on the streets of Winnipeg.

Dwayne still goes to visit his grandson at every opportunity. Every week he is there with his grandson, enjoying their time together. He is trying to be a good grandfather and pass along his culture.

I think about Lisa because today is also when the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its report.

I am wearing a jacket that was given to me by the women of Winnipeg Centre. I am not sure if the cameras can come closer for a close-up of this jacket, but two women have been beaded onto the lapel. It was given to me to remind me why I am here. It is to remind me of Lisa, to never forget her name, to never forget her hopes and dreams and her desire to hold her child in her arms every day when she wakes up and to put that child to sleep. She never had that opportunity. It was taken from her by this system. That is what this legislation is supposed to change. That is what this legislation is about. That is why it is so important.

When I gave my maiden speech in this House, over 300,000 people viewed that speech by a backbencher on Facebook. That says that people were hungry for something different.

I am very proud of the work everyone on that committee did, whether it was the Conservatives, the NDP, or even the Green Party and the independents. They came together on the committee to study this legislation, because it will make a significant difference in the future. We will be able to look back at this moment in 30 or 40 years and say that this was perhaps the finest piece of legislation in this chamber. Even though it is coming at the end of this session, it does not reduce its importance or its significance.

There is also the question of jurisdiction. The Indian Act from 1876 granulated indigenous peoples and their nations into small component parts. It took what were large groupings of people from Treaty 1 territory, Treaty 3 territory and Treaty 7 territory, where hundreds of indigenous groups, tribes and nations were living in a communal way and coming together at certain times of the year, and granulated them down into these small communities that were isolated from each other. They had no agency in their lives. This is about allowing those indigenous nations to reform themselves and in one area have full supremacy. Their laws would take precedence over federal or provincial law. That is significant.

The member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital is applauding right now, because he knows how important this is in Manitoba.

I recently spoke, in a few of the questions and comments periods, about how governments cannot legislate love. Governments can never legislate love. A government cannot love people. Sir John A. Macdonald and his ghost will never be able to love our children. People, Canadians, have to do that.

Another member in this debate said that our children are a resource. Unfortunately, yes, they are a resource in the sense that we receive funds to look after them. It is easier to pay someone else to look after the children than to help a family become successful and ensure that the children remain with their parents, where they have a connection to the culture and who they are and a connection to family members and those who love them most dearly. Maybe they are going to have an imperfect love, but it will be a strong love nonetheless.

I am very proud of the work that each and every one of us has done. I see the House leader. I do not mean to mention that she is here, but I hope that when we pass this legislation and it receives royal assent, it will be done in a way that includes a ceremony with the Governor General and that indigenous people will be included. Even though Parliament is supreme in its matters, its decisions and how it legislates, we can also decide to include others. It is very important to include the indigenous world view in this legislation and to make sure that the indigenous world view is paramount.

I am now ready for questions. I would like to thank each and every member. I am so proud of all the work we have done. I will be able to look my children in the eyes and look at myself in the mirror when I go to bed at night. No matter the outcome of this election, no matter who will be in office, members can rest assured that indigenous people and all Canadians will fight for proper financing, the administration of child welfare and allowing indigenous people to do it on their own without others telling them what to do.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, this bill is so important. There was discussion about the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The bill they proposed presents an entirely different world view. Bill C-92 is going to allow a lot more leeway for that world view to shine forth. The bill from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs talks about ceremony. It is about the interconnected, holistic nature of the indigenous philosophy, which perhaps we will not find in federal legislation but which is extremely important in how indigenous peoples seriously view the world.

I hope, as the bill moves to its final stages through the Senate, that when the Governor General gives royal assent to the bill, ceremony plays an important role. I know that the bill that was developed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs was developed in ceremony, through prayer and through the use of the pipe, with a great amount of spirituality and the use of the drums.

This might sound strange in this place with respect to how we deal with legislation here, but it was extremely important to the people of Manitoba and the people who developed that bill and the way they wanted to move forward. I hope the government will be able to find an additional accommodation at the royal assent stage to know that this bill is imbued with the spirit of all Canadians in coming together in the belief that our children really do matter.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, we know the history surrounding the child welfare system. It is related to the residential school era. Before we would take children in order to assimilate them into the majority culture. We moved into the sixties scoop where there were a lot of adoptions. There were good examples. People were trying to build relationships and build love in families and tried to look after children.

However, we moved into this foster era with our children. In Manitoba, there are 11,000 kids in care, and 90% are first nations. I think the Canadian state, including the provinces and the federal government, have completely failed these families and children.

The bill is very interesting. On one side, it has the child at the centre, but it also has issues of jurisdiction, which are two components that come together.

I would like to point out to the hon. member that governments can never legislate love. Love can never be legislated by any law in Parliament. That is what should be at the centre of our action for these children. We want to produce children who are fully contributing members, who reach their full potential and are able to be successful in life. In order to do that, as human beings, they need good loving relationships.

If the Canadian state has failed so much, if we have failed collectively as a society, then it is time to let indigenous peoples make those choices. It is time to let them make decisions for themselves, to give them the opportunity of making mistakes, but also to have the chance for success of enabling their children to experience love and to be fully contributing members of our society.

Mennonite Heritage Week May 28th, 2019

[Member spoke in Cree, interpreted as follows:]

Madam Speaker, and all my relations, I would like to thank the member of Parliament and colleague from Abbotsford and also the dynamic young MP from Kitchener-Waterloo for highlighting the work we do to build a more inclusive Canada and highlight the contribution of the Mennonite peoples.

Mennonite heritage week is important. Here is the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Canadian Mennonites have made to building Canadian society, their history of hope and perseverance, the richness of the Mennonite culture, their role in promoting peace and justice both at home and abroad, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Mennonite heritage for future generations, by declaring the second week of September as Mennonite Heritage Week.

The very first Canadian Mennonites arrived in the late 18th century, settling initially in Ontario. Today, almost 200,000 Mennonites can call Canada home. More than half live in cities and the largest number in the world live very happily in the beautiful city of Winnipeg, my Winnipeg.

In the 1870s, the Russification or assimilation policies of the Russian government caused 18,000 Dutch Mennonites, one-third of the total in Russia, to leave for North America. There was a promise of land, cultural and educational autonomy, and guaranteed exemption from military service. Almost 7,000 Mennonites came to southern Manitoba. Assimilation is an important word. Mennonites know this word, but others in Canada also have an understanding of this word. Peoples are so different, yet all can understand this word.

Around this time in 1869, my people were also living on the Prairies. Joseph Ouellette and Moïse Ouellette, his son, were farming and hunting bison in the Red River. They were also working with Louis Riel to secure the rights and freedoms of all people living in the Red River. They were proud Métis. They wanted to create a free society with a bill of rights, where it did not matter what religion you were, but you were simply free to live in peace.

The Canadian government wanted to settle the west. The almost free lands in the Northwest Territories attracted Mennonites from Prussia, Russia and the U.S. between 1890 and the First World War. Many of the new immigrants moved to Manitoba and the prairie provinces, and others created Mennonite communities in Saskatchewan and established congregations in Ontario.

Around this time in 1885, the Métis fought together in alliance with the Cree peoples. They battled against the Canadian government and the Canadian Army. Later, the Métis were forced off lands and, as Maria Campbell said, became road allowance people, simple day labourers working as hired hands on local farms throughout the west.

This was also a painful time for Mennonites. They were being forced into assimilation, having their farms seized a world away in Russia. They suffered during World War II. The largest immigration wave occurred in the 1920s when 20,000 Mennonites escaped famine and the effects of the Bolshevik Communist revolution. During the Second World War, more than 12,000 Mennonite “displaced persons or refugees” migrated to Canada from the U.S.S.R. and Germany, and most settled in urban areas.

I guess indigenous peoples, both Métis and Cree, are not too different from the Mennonite peoples. Mennonites fled countries to find freedom and indigenous peoples still fight for their freedom today because they cannot flee anywhere. There is nowhere to go.

I would like to end on a positive note and thank the work of people in the Mennonite community of Manitoba, who have been helpful in building reconciliation. They have done so in a way which is about relationships. “Reconciliation” is not a simple word. It is the bringing back of friendly relations and, in essence, making our views compatible together. This is very difficult and will require work on both sides.

The history of Canada is about a mixing between peoples. As our children live, work and marry together, they will build a society, a vision of president Louis Riel, of Chief Poundmaker, of old Chief Wuttunee. It must be a positive future.

Labour May 16th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. A hundred years ago, more than 30,000 workers started the largest strike in Canadian history. It was a passionate fight, born on the streets of Winnipeg, for workers' rights and better working conditions.

“Bread and roses, bread and roses”. Today we remember the progress we have made thanks to the labour movement. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour remind the people's House of our commitment to organized labour?

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, yes, it is quite an incredible thing. For me, though, this bill really provides a sense of hope for many of my constituents and it is going to be building on to the future. This is really about reconciliation for me.

I understand there are seats reserved for Maori. In certain parliaments, such as the Parliament of Taiwan, there are also seats reserved for indigenous peoples. At the same time, I know I was elected simply based on my own merits. It is a large debate in our society whether we should reserve seats within what we call the “Liberal democracies”, whether people should have certain rights, different rights, or how those rights all work together.

In Canada, we seem to have come to a consensus surrounding the place of indigenous peoples, but also people who have arrived here in the last 400 years, whether they are French or English. We can all work together.

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, at 22, when I was in the Canadian Armed Forces, I was fortunate to be transferred to the Valcartier military base. At the time, I did not speak a word of French. I am from Alberta. My attitude toward the language of Molière was far from positive. It is sad but true.

I decided to learn French with the Royal 22nd Regiment in Valcartier, which I salute, and our comrades in battle, the 5th Field Ambulance. Within four months, I was fully bilingual because I did not use a word of English. For me, as an Albertan, it was a way to bring the two solitudes together. However, there are other people in Canada, the indigenous peoples.

Learning French opened up a whole new world for me. Being able to express myself in any language—my mother tongue, French or English—is extremely important to me. I learned that people in Quebec have a slightly different way of thinking than people in Alberta. We are all Canadians and we are all human beings, but we have a different take on some things. Communities work together in Quebec, whereas in Alberta, we tend to be more individualistic; we like to show that we can control our environment.

In my view, language is what commands our thoughts, in a way, and that is extremely important to our cultures. We must also provide that advantage to indigenous peoples, for they have a right to live according to their culture. When they take part in ceremonies, they communicate with their ancestors through their culture and their thoughts. They deserve to have that connection with the past. Maybe one day they will be able to speak Cree at work, at the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal or Caisse Desjardins.

At least they can speak their languages at home and hear them on APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. These people helped build Canada, a country that should be admired by all humanity. No other country on earth does this. We do have our problems and things that need improvement, but Canada is still the most wonderful country in the world.

Indigenous Languages Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, that is good.

There is a lot of suicide, and it affects our communities. If the youth know their identity, it helps with their character.